The modern myth series – To do lists

Who doesn’t know how to build a “to-do” list, it’s so trivial. You used it for sure at least for a while, but most likely you dropped it or still using it just for the habit, not the benefit.

You need a to-do list otherwise you’ll forget all the stuff you need to get done, we have more in more in our plate, without it one can easily lose control and fall behind with his tasks and duties.

But the “To do list” is losing its original power and intent. In nowadays we just put everything in there. What happens than? As we’re not able to finish all the items we simply move the remaining to the next day (and so on and so forth). The list is getting bigger or we get to a point we’ll never be able to get it all done, at that point we decide to cut some of the tasks. I said to cut, not to complete, as obviously we don’t have time.

Main reasons for the “To do List” failure”:

  • Many “To-do’s”, far more than we could realistically start and finish.
  • We’re just adding things to the list, ever growing.
  • No prioritization of tasks. We jump around according to our willingness and not the urgency of the item.
  • “To-do” list is used as a memo and reminder, not a compelling list
  • Creates anxiety instead a real support tool
  • Allowing frequent interruptions during the day
  • Not having in mind daily agenda and conflicts.

Therefore, when building a “to-do” list, I recommend you have in mind the below “not do list”:

  • Saying yes to trivial requests coming your way when you’re working on your items.
  • Set tasks without priority or urgency level
  • Set tasks without estimation of time to get it done.
  • Checking emails (and social media) when working on the list items.
  • Starting with the small tasks. Those that take just a few minutes (and for sure the less important).


On the day planning itself, here’s a small list to help you be more productive:

  • Carry a small notebook with you to capture good ideas along the day
  • Dedicate time slots to most important discussions you must have
  • Use a to-do list with the minimum tasks possible but those you really need to finish
  • Use a do not disturb sign when you work on your priorities
  • Plan downtime
  • Plan time to dedicate to those who might come around with important stuff.
  • Be strict checking emails. Answer only those that might produce results or solve issue.
  • Delegate or identify resources to help you

Review your planning and make adjustments

“To-Do” lists were implemented as time management and efficiency methods. If done and executed properly can have a positive impact on your outcome. Misuse it and it becomes a kind of note or reminder. As in many other areas, discipline, commitment and realism are crucial. Combining it with the Pomodoro technique can be the solution to keep in good track.

There’s also this trend of using a done list instead the to-do. To praise you, motivate you and keeping you hungry of getting things done. I prefer having them combined. A realistic, classified and timely allocated task list that I tickle with a smiley when a single task is done.

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